Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My So Called Life: Episode 1 Recap - "Pilot"

Back in 1994, I was starting seventh grade, while Angela Chase, the main character of My So Called Life, was entering her sophomore year. It may seem like a small gap in age, but there was a world of experiences separating 7th grade me from her. Needless to say, I was not in the core demographic for this show, so it passed me by when it originally aired.

After countless friends and fellow bloggers sung its praises, I decided it was time to give it a try.

Since the show is not available to watch through the streaming feature on Netflix, I turned to Hulu. About two minutes into the show, I got a message that said I needed to be a subscriber to watch the rest. Grrrrrr. I already pay for Netflix, so I wasn’t about to pay for Hulu as well. I went to the next logical place – Youtube. The first video I tried was void of audio, so I ended up watching it in five, ten minute clips. That was a real pain, and the quality was very bad, so I’m adding the discs to Netflix and am going to watch the rest on my TV from the comfort of my couch.

Anyway, on to my thoughts of the show.

It starts out with Angela and her friend Rayanne begging for money. At first I thought, “Okay, this is where Angela is going to get arrested or something,” because then that would introduce conflict, but the goal of the scene is to introduce Rayanne as this quirky, odd person.

In the next scene we meet her not quirky friend Sharon. Showing Rayanne and Sharon scenes so close together sets up a good conflict. Will Angela choose the safe friendship of Sharon, or the crazy rollercoaster ride that is Rayanne?

The one thing I can’t ignore about this show is the fashion. Yeah, flannel was totally cool in the 90’s, but now it seems so dated. I wonder what people will think of skinny jeans in fifteen years?

Even though the fashion is outdated, I never felt like the show itself was outdated. Angela struggles with the same things every teen struggles with – the challenge of wanting to be independent, but also needing the security blanket of loving parents. The scene where she quits yearbook displays this beautifully. It’s like her way of asserting her independence, even though goody-goody Sharon totally tattles on her in the next scene! How rude!

So it seems Angela has chosen the dark side for now, and has no qualms lying to her dad about a play rehearsal so she can go to a party on a school night.

Before I go on, I want to talk about this party. Did anyone ever go to a party like this in high school? Cause I sure didn’t. A live band in a backyard with an impromptu mosh pit that sends Angela onto the ground to eat some dirt? Sort of unbelievable, but I’ll let it go because when she sees Jordan it’s all rainbows and butterflies. Errr…okay, maybe not. It’s more like, welcome to Awkward Town, population two.

Jordan is watching a music video on mute and barely acknowledges Angela’s presence, but she somehow takes that as an invitation to sit down. If nothing else, Angela’s got some guts – because I wouldn’t have been able to act so calm with such an excellent leaner sitting five feet from me.

Jordan leaves with his friends and Angela goes home. She walks in on her parents having an argument. Angela’s mom flips on her and Angela essentially tells her to just “chill”. For some reason that flies, and the scene ends with everyone mad at each other.

Cut to Friday night where Angela lies (again!) to go to some club with Rayanne and Rickie (aside: I love Rickie!). Rayanne gets wasted and almost sexually assaulted, but Angela stops the guy. The cops show up and escort both Angela and Rayanne home. Before the car can leave the lot, a drunk Rayanne spots Jordan and starts yelling for him.

Now, I’m all for an uplifting moment when the crushee finally notices the crusher, but this was sort of odd. First of all, they’re in a dark parking lot, and the cop car and the car Jordan is getting out of are a good distance from each other. Angela is inside the police car, but Jordan still sees her and calls out her name. That’s sort of a stretch. I will say that the way Angela smiles when she realizes he sees her did get me all tingly inside.

At this point, Angela starts to realize that she’s taken her mom for granted. She sees what it’s like to really be Rayanne and she’s unsure about it. She gets dropped off by the police officer, only to see her dad with another woman (he’s supposed to be playing pool with his brother), and all the walls start coming down around her. After a rousing rendition of crying to “Everybody Hurts”, she apologizes to her mom and we get our (sort of) happy ending for the episode.

  • ABC? Why did I always think this originally aired on MTV?
  • Jodie Barsh? What happened to her? Whatever it is it, it doesn’t sound good.
  • Jordan Catalano is so mysterious.
  • Ugh. I know exactly how Sharon felt in the bathroom scene. Though I never confronted my friend about it, I experienced something similar in college. Thankfully, it all worked out fine for me. I ended up meeting a really great set of new friends, most of them I still talk to today. Keep your head up Sharon!
  • Why are they learning what the first person is in sophomore English? Wouldn’t that be something you learn much earlier in life?
  • The woman who plays Patty Chase reminds me a lot of the mom on Buffy. I think it’s the voice.


  1. Lol Im pretty sure I was in 5th grade when this came out but I was OBSESSED! Now I kind of want to do a rewatch.

  2. Love Rickie! And when Jordan calls out Angela's name--so exciting! Haha, I love high school drama.

  3. I've never watched this show, but I agree it's supposed to be epic. Need to order it from the library or something.

  4. re: the fashion. Um, I wanted to be Angela so badly I somehow managed to buy the exact same wardrobe as her in 8th grade. I have the same plaid dress she wears later in the series. I wore plaid boxers with tights like her. I had a red Jansport. Outdated today, yes, but back when it first aired, those clothes were super popular!

    The scene at the end where Jordan finally notices her is THE BEST. All along she's trying to get him to notice her but what does it take to get his attention? Getting arrested. Her face is amazing. She's getting into a police car and she's smiling as wide as possible. Ahhh! I love that scene.

    I also love this line, "Once, he almost touched my arm in the middle of a pop quiz." That line is so great. It's EXACTLY how I felt in HS when I loved a boy who had no idea I existed yet I latched onto the slightest of connections.

    Rickie is such an amazing character. They all are.

    um, you might want to forget about Jodie Barsh. Because the writers definitely did.

  5. @Shana - ARGH!!! I guess they're not mentioning it again because it's *so* known. Oh well!

    @meredith - i just loved her reaction to it. Inside her head, I felt like she way screaming - "He likes me! He really likes me!"

  6. Ha! I think I watched this show some when it came out but I really don't remember it! Might look it up again though!

  7. I loved this show so much! And I love watching 90s shows/movies for the fashion! Oh man, I totally dressed like that in high school. I love it.

  8. I remember being in eighth grade and thinking that this was the best show ever. I haven't rewatched it. Oh man, Jared Leto was so very hot.

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